Pay-Per-Minute Café: Where Time Costs Money

By on Saturday, January 11, 2014

Being a Londoner of many years, I am no stranger to feeling the euphoric-psychotic effects of one too many Venti coffees – and the abyss such a caffeine addiction burns in my pocket – I was very excited to hear that the newly opened Ziferblat café are promising absolutely everything for free, no exceptions.

Well, almost everything and with one exception as the Russian owners grab you by the Rubles – doing away with dawdlers and covering their bottom line by charging patrons for every minute they spend inside.

Costing a paltry 3p per minute, on arrival the proprietors ask you to take an alarm clock (a Ziferblat in Russian) from the cupboard, note the time and clock-out at the end of your stay – however long that may be. In this time, you can get up to all sorts, from tickling the ivories on the public piano, making your own coffee from the self-serve espresso machine or even nabbing the odd biscuit from the snack cabinet as you make yourself almost entirely at home.


Engendering a sense of ultra-modern utopian social-community spirit the Ziferblat concept has been received with a mixed response – provoking quite a bit of debate. From the little time it’s been open on London’s trendy Old Street, what is a certainty is that the media are currently all a flutter about the whole thing, subsequently bringing many community minded and rubber-necking-consumer through the doors.

Bizarre, certainly, but the thing is that it’s not a particularly new idea as several Ziferblat style cafés have opened up around Russia over the last few years, following the lucrative lifespan of the original Moscow eatery. With many using the venue to snap open their laptops and do some work, make a couple of calls or just go online, the “coffice“, is being described as the future of intellectual industries.


Talking to The Guardian, owner Ivan Mitin said “Londoners are more prepared for such a concept; they understand the idea instantly. It’s funny to see people queueing here to wash their dishes. It’s not obligatory, but it’s appreciated. They even wash each other’s dishes. It’s very social. We think of our guests as micro tenants, all sharing the same space.”

With the future of this social experiment somewhat in the balance at the moment, all the signs look good for this future-gazing concept café, who have yet to broach the subject of takeaway (how the hell would that work!).


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